AOK Nordost - Managing third party relationships

Sascha Porbadnik, Head of IT AOK Nordost; Photo: Christian Lietzmann
Sascha Porbadnik, Head of IT AOK Nordost; Photo: Christian Lietzmann

Health insurance company AOK Nordost has started to formalise the business relationship with its spun-off IT service provider starting with a benchmarking project to baseline service.

A large proportion of the IT budget of AOK Nordost is allocated to its subsidiary company, GKV Informatik (GKVI), reports Head of IT Sascha Porbadnik. GKVI, a spin-off from several German health insurance companies, is an impressive IT service provider, but is not active in the third-party market. Around 500 employees manage the IT needs of more than 35,000 users. In view of the close relationship, it became obvious that business dealings needed to be put on a secure foundation. Porbadnik hopes to gain “a new quality of cooperation” not only by formalising the relationship but also by restructuring their own requirements. The aim is “to treat GKVI like a normal service provider.”

This change in relationship brought consequences for IT governance after AOK Berlin-Brandenburg merged in 2011 with AOK Mecklenburg-Vorpommern to form AOK Nordost. “If we intend to manage our service provider on a different basis from before, our focus has to shift from managing the content to managing the interface,” explains Porbadnik, who became Head of IT for the merged insurance company. Key to the interface, for example, are the service level agreements (SLAs) and the form of contracts entered into. Porbadnik needed to exercise effective control, providing governance without being involved in the operational procedures. “As long as they meet the quality criteria, we don’t need to micro-manage decisions about which supplier provides our PCs,” he says.  “As the customer, we need above all to learn to let go.”

Analysing the user helpdesk

To support its focus on the interface rather than the content, AOK has drawn on the support provided by a market price benchmarking project from Maturity. A pilot project analysed the user helpdesk. “We wanted to be able to assess how benchmarking works, what data is collected, and how meaningful the results are,” says Porbadnik. “I wanted to see whether all we got from benchmarking was just the bare figures, as well as how robust the investigation into performance actually was,” he added, clarifying his objectives for the pilot project.

The exercise was very detailed, “but it was worth the effort.” The benchmarker, he says, really needs to work hard to get to grips with the customer’s IT to understand which figures need further work and also to select a number of appropriate peer group companies. The benchmarker has to want to understand the customer’s IT operation and objectives, argues Porbadnik: “You can’t do that in a two-hour phone call.” Porbadnik is now able to manage his external provider more effectively against a clear service baseline.

Download the case study IT benchmark at AOK Nordost as a PDF file

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